NEW ORLEANS (Louisiana Record) — Baton Rouge attorney Dante Jerome Butler faces possible suspension following a split Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board (LADB) recommendation to the state Supreme Court over allegations he improperly shared legal fees earned by non-attorneys at a quasi-legal center in St. Tammany Parish.
In its 29-page recommendation, the LADB advised that the state Supreme Court hand down a fully deferred six-month suspension against Butler, subject to a year of probation and that he complete the state bar's ethics schools. The LADB also recommended that Butler be ordered to pay all costs and expenses in the matter.
LADB adjudicative members Linda G. Bizzarro and Brian D. Landry both dissented in the recommendation, saying they would have advised that Butler be suspended for "not less than one year and one day."
The LADB's recommendation was milder than that issued by a hearing committee earlier this year, urging that Butler be suspended for three years and he be ordered to pay full restitution, in addition to paying all costs and expenses.
Butler was admitted to the bar in Louisiana Oct. 20, 2011, according to his profile at the Louisiana State Bar Association's website. Butler had no prior discipline before the state bar, according to the LADB's recommendation.
Allegations against Butler stemmed from his work at the Knowledge Center Temple in Slidell, which assists prisoners in post-conviction proceedings. He allegedly improperly shared legal fees earned by non-attorneys and proofread their work. Butler testified before the heating committee that he knew the temple representative, Charles Taylor and Taylor's assistant, Shawna Terrell, who approached him to do review work done were not attorneys.
Butler reportedly told the hearing committee that he agreed to proofread legal work done by Taylor and Terrell on behalf of Knowledge Center Temple clients.
Butler's misconduct in particular "caused actual harm" to two prisoners, in particular, who paid a total of $13,500, of which Butler received $4,000, for legal work prepared by nonattorneys at Knowledge Center Temple and which Butler proofread, the LADB recommendation said.
"Further, his actions contributed to a delay in these prisoners' having licensed lawyers fully review their cases and pursue any legitimately available procedures for obtaining post-conviction relief," the recommendation said.